By Zac B. Sarian
Philippine agriculture needs a big boost at this time if we are to be competitive with other ASEAN countries. And that big boost can come from farm mechanization.
Fortunately, our policy makers and leaders agree that mechanizing Philippine farms can lead to many advantages. For one, Sen. Cynthia Villar who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, is so obsessed with farm mechanization that recently, the family’s Villar Sipag Farm School conducted a skills training in farm machinery operation for students in agriculture. She realizes the need for training the youth how to operate and maintain farm machinery. With the use of machines, farming operations can be much faster, more thorough and more economical.
Mechanizing rice farming can make local farmers favorably compete with their counterparts in Vietnam who produce palay at P5 per kilo. As per the experience of Dante Delima who has been mechanizing rice farming in Oriental Mindoro, he can also produce palay at P5 per kilo, which is about P7 cheaper than the usual cost of P12 per kilo of palay in the Philippines.
Practically, all the operations in rice production can be mechanized, including seedling production in trays for mechanical transplanting. Machines can prepare the land not only for mechanical transplanting. A new technique of direct seeding of rice is a very fast way of establishing a rice plantation. One machine from Korea, for instance, has an 8-row direct seeder which could finish the job on several hectares in just one day. Of course, machinery is also needed to prepare the land properly and water is properly controlled.
For crop protection from pests and diseases, there are boom sprayers for fast operations operated by machine. And the latest development is the use of drones for spraying chemicals to control pest and disease problems.
Combine rice harvesters are now very popular in Cagayan Valley but there is need for other regions to follow. There are harvesters that thresh the grains at the same time. There’s also a video we saw lately where the harvester threshes the grains and places them in the sack. On top of that, the rice straw is also baled.
Postharvest handling is also very important in rice farming. One continuous flow grains dryer that automatically transfers the dried grains to a silo is now being eyed by a commercial rice grower in Mindoro.
Corn is another crop that can be mechanized from planting to harvesting and drying. There’s a direct seeding machine that can plant faster and in uniform distances. Then there is the harvester that harvests the ears and shells them at the same time.
There’s also a machine that can cut corn stovers left by harvesters in the field. These dried stovers are gathered by machine and then shredded for the production of silage for feeding farm animals.
Onion & high value veggies
So much can also be mechanized in the production of onions and high value vegetables. Preparation of planting beds, drainage canals, and levees can be done efficiently by the small tractors. Even the installation of plastic mulch is so much faster and more economical by machine.
The latest good news is that PhilMech has invented a six-row direct seeder for onions. This can make planting onion easy and convenient, economical, too.
Now you see, so many farm operations can be mechanized. This could lead to better quality harvests that could command a better price for farmers and other stakeholders in agriculture. Yes, the name of the game is farm mechanization.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2018 issue.